Injustice: Gods Among Us (Multi-Platform) Review
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 04.19.2013
DC Comics' greatest heroes and villains go to all-out war in the new fighting game from the makers of Mortal Kombat, Injustice: Gods Among Us! But is it worth your time? 411's Jeremy Thomas checks in with his full review!
Game: Injustice: Gods Among Us
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Format: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U
There is one thing you can absolutely count on when you get two members of comic book fandom together. It happens with any pairing at some point, no matter what company they support, which types of comics they read, their ages, their genders or any other factor. At some point, they will begin arguing about who would win in a fight between Superhero X and Superhero Y. It is a time-honored tradition in comic book geekdom and no single pairing is ever definitive (except perhaps Superman vs. any member of the Great Lakes Avengers). Thus, it is not surprising that comic books have been fertile ground for fighting games. Whether Marvel vs. Capcom, Justice League Task Force, X-Men: Mutant Academy or even games like the PVP aspects of DC Universe Online and Marvel Avengers Alliance, gamers can't get enough of comic book characters beating the ever-loving snot out of each other.
That being said, the fighting game genre has largely kept the superheroes on the sidelines. While MvC is without question a revered success in the genre, more often than not comic book-related fighting games have been left in the dust by the Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and Tekken franchises with even Super Smash Bros. and Dead or Alive generally receiving more regard. Warner Bros. seems unwilling to stand at the wayside though, and with Netherrealm Studios at the helm they've brought forth the ambitious Injustice: Gods Among Us in the hopes that Superman, Batman and all their heroic and maniacal brethren can stand tall with other champion fighters out there.
For Injustice, NetherRealm partnered with writers at DC to create a new storyline (supported by a DC limited series) that takes place in one of the many alternate universes that populate DC's multiverse. In this other world, the Joker has committed an act of ultimate horror as, tired of fighting Batman, he turns his attention on Superman and tricks him via Scarecrow's fear toxin into killing Lois and their unborn child. This causes a trigger implanted in Lois to go off and a nuclear bomb destroys Metropolis. Superman, driven mad with grief, kills the Joker and establishes a "One Earth Order" in which he and many superheroes rule their Earth through fear. Those who resist are done away with, leaving only a few hiding in the shadows, and fewer still left fighting as part of an insurgency. That insurgency, led by Batman, manages to pull several heroes from the core continuity over in order to help them put an end to Superman's oppressive regime.
In the world of Superman's regime, Harley Quinn has a lower back tattoo.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
This is the point that the story mode of the game picks up. Similar to NetherRealm's Mortal Kombat reboot, the Story Mode moves from one character to the other in the form of "chapters" as they make their way through the storyline and face various enemies...including, in some cases, their alter egos. Green Lantern has to battle a yellow ring-wearing Hal Jordan for example, while the Joker--transported from Prime Earth along with the heroes--faces off with the likes of Harley Quinn and Hawkgirl. The Story Mode--dubbed "3.0" by Netherrealm--is perhaps one of the game's strongest points, which is an odd thing to say when you're considering fighting games. Usually the story is thrown in as little more than a bare-bones window dressing for the fights. With Injustice it is easy to find yourself more interested in the story than the fights themselves because of how engrossing it is. While you progress through the battles of each hero (or villain)'s chapter, the action occasionally cuts away to show another integral part of the story and yet it never seems distracting. It isn't as engrossing of a story as Telltale's The Walking Dead but outside of it and some higher-level RPGs, it's one of the best video game stories in a long time.
That's not to say that only the story is great though. The gameplay for Injustice is very well-done. Fighting games are all about the gameplay but there is a fair amount of button-mashing built into the strategy. You don't have to be particularly good at hitting all the right moves to win, you just have to jump around a lot and push the buttons in a frenzied manner and it can throw the most skilled player off their game. There is still a bit of that in Injustice, but Netherrealm has made the game more reliant on strategy through a few different aspects. The first, and probably the most important, is the environment. Each of the stages are very interactive. You're not just fighting against pretty scenery; that pipe hanging near the ceiling can be ripped open so that your opponent is blasted. The motorcycle sitting in the parking lot can be driven over your enemy. The vehicle in the corner can be used to leap over your opponent and get you back out in the open. Each stage has its own set pieces that can be exploited and each one varies, making knowing your stages an important part of the game.
Furthermore important renovation in Injustice is the Clash feature. Once per fight when you're into your second bar of health, you can set up an epic showdown by breaking a combo where you bet your Super Meter against your opponent. Whoever bids the most energy wins the clash and will even regenerate health or finish off the combo. It adds another strategic element in; no longer can you just build up your Super Meter, hit your Super Combo and its game over. Finally, there is the Character Trait system, with each character having their own set of unique powers. Lex Luthor, for example, activates a shield that can absorb a hit. Wonder Woman can switch from fist and lasso to sword and shield. It helps differentiate the characters and allowed Netherrealm to pretty accurately portray each of the twenty-four fighters in the base game as unique, distinctive individuals. If there is a flaw to be found in the gameplay, it is the occasional need for quick time events in Story Mode. These don't pop up often and I don't hate the idea, but they're occasionally distracting when all you're itching for the next fight.
Joker's Super Move is about to give Hawkgirl's day a serious downward turn.
For comic book fans, not only are the storyline and gameplay great for authenticity; the visuals and voice acting is a big bonus. Netherrealm and WBIE brought in the likes of Kevin Conroy, George Newbern, Phil LaMarr, Susan Eisenberg and other fan favorites from the various animated series to voice Batman, Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and others. Tara Strong is back as Harley Quinn from Batman: Arkham City as well. This gives the game a sense of continuity because let's be honest, there's nothing like hearing Conroy's brooding Batman. Anyone else just doesn't do it justice. The game distinguishes the "Regime/Insurgency" heroes and villains from the alternate Earth with the ones from Prime Earth, but none of them feel anything less than faithful to the characters.
One of the concerns from fans about Netherrealm tackling a DC project has been the Teen rating. Mortal Kombat was a blood-soaked spectacle in order to be faithful to that game, and some have wondered whether Injustice could avoid seeming too "kiddy" while still meeting WBIE's requirements. There's no concern warranted though, as blood does come into play when appropriate and the very nature of the storyline makes it clear that this is a no holds barred situation. The violence isn't over the top but it is fitting for a fighting game and it never feels like you're playing a kid's game.
"Hey Diana. How does my big metal shiny boot taste?"
The last thing to point out with this game is that, while the Story Mode is rather short (I beat it within a matter of hours), that doesn't mean you're done. Of course the game has a multiplayer mode and that is exactly what you would expect from a fighting game; there are ranked and unranked options and daily challenges allow you to earn more XP to unlock costumes, artwork and such. There are also the battle ladders, which include different criteria like "All Villains," "Classic" or "All Heroes." Even better though is the S.T.A.R. Labs, the DC-themed version of Mortal Kombat's Challenge Tower. There are 240 challenges, ten for each character with every character's set being linked by a simple storyline. You gain stars to unlock other challenges by meeting certain criteria on each mission. Needless to say, this is the kind of thing that will take a lot more than a few hours to beat and extends the game's lasting power by a significant margin.
- Fantastic storyline that is as much fun to follow as the actual gameplay
- Great voice acting from all involved
- Interactive environments keep things exciting and give you lots of ways to beat your enemies up
- Comic book fans get the fighting game we've always wanted
- Netherrealm wasn't forced to curtail the story in order to get the Teen rating
- QTEs are unnecessary
- Some of the cutscene fights are ones you'll want to be part of
Netherrealm Studios is quickly establishing itself as the new king of fighting games, particularly with Injustice: Gods Among Us. The studio takes DC's iconic heroes and makes them all fun and intriguing to play while taking the player on an engrossing storyline that is as appealing as the gameplay itself. With great voice acting, very good graphics and tons to do, this is a game that sets the bar very high for the fighting genre in 2013.
The visuals in the game are all nicely handled and cutscenes play nicely, albeit with a couple choppy moments.
Gameplay is incredibly interactive and more strategic than your average fighter.
The voice acting is excellent throughout the game and Dean Grinsfelder's music hits the right tone.
Once you're done with the story mode, you still have a lengthy set of story-related missions in S.T.A.R. Labs, plus multiplayer and all the battles.
If you like fighting games, this one is a top-notch one for sheer enjoyment factor.